SCIENCE IN THE NEWS #2120 - Digest

By StaffThis is Bob Doughty.And this is Sarah Long with SCIENCE IN THE NEWS, a VOA Special English program about recent developments in science. Today, we tell about American women and smoking. We tell about the study of evolution in the state of Kansas. We tell about chemicals found in Americans. And we tell about work to develop new vaccines against foot-and-mouth-disease.

A new American government report confirms that smoking tobacco is a serious health problem for women and girls. The report says women now represent thirty-nine percent of deaths caused by smoking in the United States. It says the rate of American women who die from such disease has increased more than one-hundred percent since Nineteen-Sixty-Five.

The top American health officer, Surgeon General David Satcher, released the report. He says the findings show that women who smoke like men die like men.For a long time, many more American men than women smoked and died from sicknesses linked to smoking. The report says those differences narrowed in the Nineteen-Eighties. The study found that twenty-two percent of American women smoked cigarettes in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight.

The report expresses concern about the large number of girls under twenty years of age who smoke. Almost thirty percent of girls in high school reported that they smoke cigarettes.The report says women who smoke face an increased risk of several diseases linked to smoking. They include lung cancer, heart disease and breathing disorders. Since Nineteen-Eighty, about three-million American woman have died at an early age from such sicknesses. The report says lung cancer is now the leading cause of cancer death among American women. This year, lung cancer will kill almost sixty-eight-thousand American women.

The Surgeon General says female smokers face other health risks that men do not face. They include reproductive problems and cancer of the cervix. They also include problems of the bones like osteoporosis and arthritis. Women who smoke while they are pregnant also may harm their babies.Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says smoking is an important women's health issue that requires action. He says anti-smoking efforts must begin in schools before girls begin to smoke. The report calls for stronger national and local efforts to reduce and prevent tobacco use among women and girls.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))Education officials in the American state of Kansas have rejected an earlier decision to remove the study of evolution from science education programs. The Kansas Board of Education voted in February to approve new rules for teaching science in the state. Those rules will be used to prepare new statewide tests for high school students. The tests will now include questions about evolution.The theory of evolution says that all life on Earth developed from common ancestors in a biological process during millions of years. Some scientists say evolution is the most important idea of biology. British scientist Charles Darwin developed the theory of evolution in the Nineteenth Century. It was a way to describe the development of new kinds of animals, including humans.

Some conservative religious leaders condemn Darwin's ideas. They argue that evolution cannot be proven. Conservative Christians say the ideas conflict with their belief that God created the universe and all living things on Earth, including humans.Two years ago, the Kansas Board of Education voted to end most questions about evolution on the statewide tests. Board members did not ban the teaching of evolution in the state's schools, however. The vote represented a major victory for religious conservatives.

The Board's decision shocked many scientists and educators. Kansas Governor Bill Graves called the vote terrible and tragic. Efforts to cancel that decision started last year after statewide elections for members of the Board of Education. Voters removed from office two Board members who supported the Nineteen-Ninety-Nine decision.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))You are listening to the Special English program SCIENCE IN THE NEWS on VOA. This is Sarah Long with Bob Doughty in Washington.


American health officials have produced a scientific report about environmental chemicals found in average Americans. It is the most detailed study of such chemicals in the general population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released the report.

The findings are based on a technology known as biomonitoring. Biomonitoring permits scientists to measure chemicals in a person's blood and waste fluid. In the past, scientists measured chemicals in air, water or soil to estimate chemical exposures in people.The new study examined the blood and urine from three-thousand-eight-hundred adults and children. It found small amounts of twenty-seven environmental chemicals. The chemicals include metals, products to kill insects and substances found in plastics.

Officials say the presence of a chemical does not necessarily mean that it will cause disease. They say additional studies are required to show if the levels reported are a cause for concern.A few of the chemicals were measured in earlier studies. Levels of two of them -- tobacco smoke and lead -- have decreased sharply in the past ten years.

Scientists say one surprise was the high level of man-made compounds called phthalates. Phthalates are used to make plastics, toys and products for the skin. Scientists say laboratory rats fed large amounts of the substance have had birth defects and reproductive problems.

C-D-C officials say they want to expand the study to provide information about one-hundred chemicals. They also want to find out how these chemicals affect health.

((MUSIC BRIDGE))American scientists are developing new vaccine medicines against Foot-and-Mouth Disease. They hope to stop serious infections like the one now affecting animals in Europe. Currently, Foot-and-Mouth Disease vaccines are made from a virus that causes the disease. Such vaccines use a killed or weakened virus.

However, experts say the current vaccines are difficult to use. They say such vaccines offer only short-term protection against Foot-and-Mouth disease. The United States Department of Agriculture is working to develop more powerful and longer-lasting vaccines. The Department operates the Plum Island Animal Disease Center. It is near the coast of Long Island, New York. The center is the only American laboratory with enough security to safely study the virus.Peter Mason directs the Foot-and-Mouth Disease research team at Plum Island. He says the team is using genetic engineering to develop several new kinds of vaccines. One new kind of vaccine uses genetic material from the virus. It is injected into the animal. The D-N-A molecules cause the animal to make proteins similar to those produced by the virus. This helps the animal to develop resistance to the disease.

Another method involves pieces of genetic material from the Foot-and-Mouth Disease virus. Scientists put this D-N-A material into other harmless viruses. When injected into a healthy animal, the changed viruses can cause resistance to fight Foot-and-Mouth and other diseases.Mr. Mason says both experimental vaccines would be effective for controlling infections among large numbers of animals. He says the vaccines help build up natural resistance quickly and safely among animals near infected areas.

The American scientist says tests with the new vaccines are hopeful. However, the vaccines probably will not be ready to be used for several years.

This SCIENCE IN THE NEWS program was written and produced by George Grow. This is Sarah Long.And this is Bob Doughty. Join us again next week for more news about science in Special English on the Voice of America.

Voice of America Special English